Robert Louis Stevenson: A Memorial HTML version
Lord Rosebery's Case
IMMEDIATELY on reading Lord Rosebery's address as Chairman of the meeting in
Edinburgh to promote the erection of a monument to R. L. Stevenson, I wrote to him
politely asking him whether, since he quoted a passage from a somewhat early essay by
Stevenson naming the authors who had chiefly influenced him in point of style, his
Lordship should not, merely in justice and for the sake of balance, have referred to
Thoreau. I also remarked that Stevenson's later style sometimes showed too much self-
conscious conflict of his various models in his mind while he was in the act of writing,
and that this now and then imparted too much an air of artifice to his later compositions,
and that those who knew most would be most troubled by it. Of that letter, I much regret
now that I did not keep any copy; but I think I did incidentally refer to the friendship with
which Stevenson had for so many years honoured me. This is a copy of the letter received
"38 BERKELEY SQUARE, W.,
17th DECEMBER 1896.
"DEAR SIR, - I am much obliged for your letter, and can only state that the name of
Thoreau was not mentioned by Stevenson himself, and therefore I could not cite it in my
"With regard to the style of Stevenson's later works, I am inclined to agree with you.-
Believe me, yours very faithfully, ROSEBERY. "Dr ALEXANDER H. JAPP."
This I at once replied to as follows:
"NATIONAL LIBERAL CLUB,
WHITEHALL. PLACE, S.W.
, 19TH DECEMBER 1896.
"MY LORD, - It is true R. L. Stevenson did not refer to Thoreau in the passage to which
you allude, for the good reason that he could not, since he did not know Thoreau till after
it was written; but if you will oblige me and be so good as to turn to p. xix. of Preface,
BY WAY OF CRITICISM, to FAMILIAR STUDIES OF MEN AND BOOKS you will
"'Upon me this pure, narrow, sunnily-ascetic Thoreau had exercised a wondrous charm. I
HAVE SCARCE WRITTEN TEN SENTENCES SINCE I WAS INTRODUCED TO
HIM, BUT HIS INFLUENCE MIGHT BE SOMEWHERE DETECTED BY A CLOSE
"It is very detectable in many passages of nature-description and of reflection. I write, my
Lord, merely that, in case opportunity should arise, you might notice this fact. I am sure